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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

IBM and Circuit City in a Virtual World

I have been exploring Second Life and had the rare experience of watching IBM and some of its contractors set up their virtual Circuit City store in Second Life. Watching a half dozen avatars 'construct', tune and correct the experience is a revelation. It has been formally opened now. Since the opening I have returned a number of times, its usually not very crowded, have had some interesting conversations with others in the location. Its their first experiment in linking the store experience to the home experience. IBM plans to set up a number of virtual development centers. Have had a number of interesting encounters there. Search for location 'IBM 10'. Below is their text introducing the location:
" ... We've partnered with Circuit City to explore and experiment with how we can apply virtual worlds to their business -- from doing business inside of virtual worlds to connecting the virtual world with the real world to create a richer, more immersive Web environment.

This early build of a virtual Circuit City store is an area where we are experimenting with how to enrich a user experience by using virtual worlds to augment both the Web experience and the real world experience. For example, instead of browsing through a catalogue on a website, people can use their avatars to walk the aisles of a virtual Circuit City store, and pick up and examine products in a way that is closer to real life.

They can also easily link to an order form to shop in these virtual worlds in a way similar to ordering on the Web.
In addition, this build demonstrate a really powerful advantage that virtual worlds have over the Web... in the area of customer service, instead of simply talking someone through technical issues or how to use certain products, they can actually show the user their product in 3-dimensional virtual worlds and explain exactly how and where to fix or examine the product to find the problem and get it resolved.

Other immersive features that IBM and Circuit City are experimenting with include an interactive home theater, where customers can easily recreate their own home environment to do things like setting up a home theater -- users can easily move a couch at the proper distance from where they want to put a new TV, and it automatically tells them the optimal size TV to purchase for their room dimensions, and eventually will add other features like where to place speakers for a surround sound system

This is in the early experimentation phase, and we are eager for feedback from consumers and other businesses on how we can make it better ...."
There is still much to do here, they are attempting to mimic a real-world retail experience in a virtual world that does not effectively support that illusion. Will continue to track.

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